Part 1: Invitation
The blue light of the moon shone down, a beacon lighting winding paths through the cemetery. Buffy moved among the graves in a fugue, thoughts skittering, skin tingling. She didn't know where she was heading, only knew that she'd find what she sought on instinct.
Coming to a stop just where the edge of the shadows met the moon's light, Buffy looked at the tombstone in front of her. She'd avoided this place for months, but just at this moment, she craved peace. Tara was the only person who'd managed to bring that to her life since her mother's death.
Buffy sat on the ground and leaned back, resting her head on the rough surface. It felt like ice on her neck, cool and soothing. "So, tonight's my night for socializing with the dead and buried. Hope you don't mind my being here."
She drew her knees up to her chest and wrapped her arms around them. "You told me it was okay if I loved him, Tara." A stake found itself in the palm of her hands, and she began to toy with it. "You said he'd done good things, that he loved me."
"I thought you were wrong...he left. They always do. And then, in the church, he.... I was just starting to believe, when..." Buffy's head drooped forward onto her knees. "It's never enough, is it?"
A long shadow fell across her legs. "What's not enough?" Buffy looked up to see who was interrupting her misery, surprise coloring her face when she realized it was Nancy, Xander's worm friend.
"You know, dog walking in graveyards at night time's not such a bright idea." Buffy stood and dusted bits of grass from her pants and looked at her expectantly.
Nancy had the grace to look a bit shame-faced when she answered. "You're right. I shouldn't be here. But I owe you something for helping me, before." She shifted uncomfortably, eyes darting from side to side and back before meeting Buffy's again. " I followed your ex into the cemetery."
"My ex?" Buffy's eyes narrowed. "You mean Spike? Looney-Tunes blond? He's here?"
Backing up away from Buffy, Nancy answered, "Look, I don't want to get involved here, but...I think I saw him attack someone near the apartment building. He ran this way, and Xander said you hang out here, so I'm telling you."
The dog on the end of the leash pulled its owner away. "Gotta go. Good luck...or something."
Buffy stared at Nancy's back, hefting the stake in her hand. "Yeah. Or something." With a shrug of her shoulders, she turned and walked in the direction Nancy had come from. The path to the crypt was utterly familiar. She'd traveled it over and over again, in life and in dreams.
But what she found on arrival didn't meet her expectations, real or fantasy. He wasn't prowling the cemetery on a hunt, nor was he prowling his crypt waiting for her. He lay crumpled against the crypt door, asleep. Pale skin and lightening hair reflected the glow of the moon -- he could be an angel, but for the smear of blood on the corner of his mouth.
Thoughts of what she would do chased through her head. She choked back a laugh turned sob at the memories that raced through her. Memories of his hand on the rounded bone of her hip, his breath on her neck, whispering darkly to her shattered soul. He'd offered her heaven while she lived in her own personal hell.
What would Xander say about this hesitation to do what needed doing? He wouldn't hesitate, she knew. Xander didn't see the beauty of him, or feel the pull of the darkness, wrapped in all that light.
Unable to help herself, she moved forward silently, a breath away from touching.
She wanted to touch him, but then he'd wake. Maybe with a flinch. And then they'd dance.
Her hand moved of its own volition. Just one gentle touch, barely there. It couldn't hurt now. This time, she'd do it right. No D'Hoffryn would appear to save her from duty, no gypsy spells to recast, to fix this broken soul. And no Xander with broken crayons to save the day once more. Only the music that had fueled their passion since that day long ago in the Bronze.
His entire body jerked at the touch of her fingertip to his cheek. Sleepy eyes regarded her warily as he pulled his head away, a turtle trying to find its shell.
"So cold... Why're you here, Slayer?" His voice was heavy, wrapping her in somnolent recall of a time when she'd thrilled to the question, the sound of his voice an invitation to a place where she could give herself over to instinct completely.
She let her finger trail from his cheek down to the corner of his mouth, wiping the smear of blood with her thumb and holding it aloft.
"What have you done, Spike?" Sorrow lingered, echoing through the sound of her cold, sharp words. When his eyes paused on the stake then raised to meet hers, she saw a flicker of hope behind the madness.
A bright glow lit his face, like a child on Christmas morning.
"You do love me."